Atlas Shrugged: 35th Anniversary Edition

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Overview

"Who is John Galt?" is the immortal question posed at the beginning of Ayn Rand's masterpiece. The answer is the astonishing story of a man who said he would stop the motor of the world—and did. As passionate as it is profound, Atlas Shrugged is one of the most influential novels of our time. In it, Rand dramatizes the main tenets of Objectivism, her philosophy of rational selfishness. She explores the ramifications of her radical thinking in a world that penalizes human intelligence and integrity. Part mystery, ...

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Overview

"Who is John Galt?" is the immortal question posed at the beginning of Ayn Rand's masterpiece. The answer is the astonishing story of a man who said he would stop the motor of the world—and did. As passionate as it is profound, Atlas Shrugged is one of the most influential novels of our time. In it, Rand dramatizes the main tenets of Objectivism, her philosophy of rational selfishness. She explores the ramifications of her radical thinking in a world that penalizes human intelligence and integrity. Part mystery, part thriller, part philosophical inquiry, part volatile love affair, Atlas Shrugged is the book that confirmed Ayn Rand as one of the most popular novelist and most respected thinkers of the 20th century.

The book's female protagonist, Dagny Taggart, struggles to manage a transcontinental railroad amid the pressures and restrictions of massive bureaucracy. Her antagonistic reaction to a libertarian group seeking an end to government regulation is later echoed and modified in her encounter with a utopian community, Galt's Gulch, whose members regard self-determination rather than collective responsibility as the highest ideal. -- Encyclopedia of Literature

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Editorial Reviews

Encyclopedia of Literature
The book's female protagonist, Dagny Taggart, struggles to manage a transcontinental railroad amid the pressures and restrictions of massive bureaucracy. Her antagonistic reaction to a libertarian group seeking an end to government regulation is later echoed and modified in her encounter with a utopian community, Galt's Gulch, whose members regard self-determination rather than collective responsibility as the highest ideal.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525934189
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/1/1992
  • Edition description: 50th Anniversary Edition
  • Edition number: 50
  • Pages: 1200
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 2.28 (d)

Meet the Author

AYN RAND is the author of Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged, and numerous non-fiction essays on philosophy, ethics, politics, art, and literature. Her philosophy, Objectivism, has gained a worldwide audience of adherents and admirers. She died in March 1982.

Biography

Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 2, 1905. At age six she taught herself to read and two years later discovered her first fictional hero in a French magazine for children, thus capturing the heroic vision that sustained her throughout her life. At the age of nine she decided to make fiction writing her career. Thoroughly opposed to the mysticism and collectivism of Russian culture, she thought of herself as a European writer, especially after encountering authors such as Walter Scott and—in 1918—Victor Hugo, the writer she most admired.

During her high school years, she was eyewitness to both the Kerensky Revolution, which she supported, and—in 1917—the Bolshevik Revolution, which she denounced from the outset. In order to escape the fighting, her family went to the Crimea, where she finished high school. The final Communist victory brought the confiscation of her father's pharmacy and periods of near-starvation. When introduced to American history in her last year of high school, she immediately took America as her model of what a nation of free men could be.

When her family returned from the Crimea, she entered the University of Petrograd to study philosophy and history. Graduating in 1924, she experienced the disintegration of free inquiry and the takeover of the university by communist thugs. Amidst the increasingly gray life, her one great pleasure was Western films and plays. Long a movie fan, she entered the State Institute for Cinema Arts in 1924 to study screen writing.

In late 1925 she obtained permission to leave Soviet Russia for a visit to relatives in the United States. Although she told Soviet authorities that her visit would be short, she was determined never to return to Russia. She arrived in New York City in February 1926. She spent the next six months with her relatives in Chicago, obtained an extension to her visa, and then left for Hollywood to pursue a career as a screenwriter.

On Ayn Rand's second day in Hollywood, Cecil B. DeMille saw her standing at the gate of his studio, offered her a ride to the set of his movie The King of Kings, and gave her a job, first as an extra, then as a script reader. During the next week at the studio, she met an actor, Frank O'Connor, whom she married in 1929; they were married until his death fifty years later.

After struggling for several years at various non-writing jobs, including one in the wardrobe department at the RKO Corporation, she sold her first screenplay, Red Pawn to Universal Studios in 1932 and saw her first stage play, Night of January 16th, produced in Hollywood and then on Broadway. Her first novel, We the Living, was completed in 1933 but was rejected by publishers for years, until The Macmillan Company in the United States and Cassells and Company in England published the book in 1936. The most autobiographical of her novels—it was based on her years under Soviet tyranny—We the Living was not well-received by American intellectuals and reviewers. Ayn Rand was up against the pro-communism dominating the culture during "the Red Decade."

She began writing The Fountainhead in 1935. In the character of the architect Howard Roark, she presented for the first time the kind of hero whose depiction was the chief goal of her writing: the ideal man, man as "he could be and ought to be." The Fountainhead was rejected by twelve publishers but finally accepted by the Bobbs-Merrill Company. When published in 1943, it made history by becoming a best seller through word-of-mouth two years later, and gained for its author lasting recognition as a champion of individualism.

Ayn Rand returned to Hollywood in late 1943 to write the screenplay for The Fountainhead, but wartime restrictions delayed production until 1948. Working part time as a screenwriter for Hal Wallis Productions, she began her major novel, Atlas Shrugged, in 1946. In 1951 she moved back to New York City and devoted herself full time to the completion of Atlas Shrugged.

Published in 1957, Atlas Shrugged was her greatest achievement and last work of fiction. In this novel she dramatized her unique philosophy in an intellectual mystery story that integrated ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, politics, economics and sex. Although she considered herself primarily a fiction writer, she realized that in order to create heroic fictional characters, she had to identify the philosophic principles that make such individuals possible. She needed to formulate "a philosophy for living on earth."

Thereafter, Ayn Rand wrote and lectured on her philosophy—Objectivism. She published and edited her own periodicals from 1962 to 1976, her essays providing much of the material for nine books on Objectivism and its application to the culture. Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982, in her New York City apartment.

Every book by Ayn Rand published in her lifetime is still in print, and hundreds of thousands of copies are sold each year, so far totaling more than twenty million. Several new volumes have been published posthumously. Her vision of man and her philosophy for living on earth have changed the lives of thousands of readers and launched a philosophic movement with a growing impact on American culture.

Author biography courtesy of The Ayn Rand Institute.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Alice Rosenbaum (real name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 2, 1905
    2. Place of Birth:
      St. Petersburg, Russia
    1. Date of Death:
      March 6, 1982
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York

Read an Excerpt

ATLAS SHRUGGED
by Ayn Rand

 

INTRODUCTION
by Leonard Peikoff

Ayn Rand is one of America's favorite authors. In a recent Library of Congress/Book of the Month Club survey, American readers ranked Atlas Shrugged—her masterwork—as second only to the Bible in its influence on their lives. For decades, at scores of college campuses around the country, students have formed clubs to discuss the works of Ayn Rand. In 1998, the Oscar-nominated Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, a documentary film about her life, played to sold-out venues throughout America and Canada. In recognition of her enduring popularity, the United States Postal Service in 1999 issued an Ayn Rand stamp.
Every book by Ayn Rand published in her lifetime is still in print, and hundreds of thousands of copies of them are sold every year, so far totaling more than twenty million. Why?
Ayn Rand understood, all the way down to fundamentals, why man needs the unique form of nourishment that is literature. And she provided a banquet that was at once intellectual and thrilling.
The major novels of Ayn Rand contain superlative values that are unique in our age. Atlas Shrugged (1957) and The Fountainhead (1943) offer profound and original philosophic themes, expressed in logical, dramatic plot structures. They portray an uplifted vision of man, in the form of protagonists characterized by strength, purposefulness, integrity—heroes who are not only idealists, but happy idealists, self-confident, serene, at home on earth. (See synopses later in this guide.)
Ayn Rand's first novel, We the Living (1936), set in thepost-revolutionary Soviet Union, is an indictment not merely of Soviet-style Communism, but of any and every totalitarian state that claims the right to sacrifice the supreme value of an individual human life.
Anthem (1946), a prose poem set in the future, tells of one man's rebellion against an utterly collectivized world, a world in which joyless, selfless men are permitted to exist only for the sake of serving the group. Written in 1937, Anthem was first published in England; it was refused publication in America until 1946, for reasons the reader can discover by reading it for himself.
Ayn Rand wrote in a highly calculated literary style intent on achieving precision and luminous clarity, yet that style is at the same time colorful, sensuously evocative, and passionate. Her exalted vision of man and her philosophy for living on earth, Objectivism, have changed the lives of tens of thousands of readers and launched a major philosophic movement with a growing impact on American culture.
You are invited to sit down to the banquet which is Ayn Rand's novels. I hope you personally enjoy them as much as I did.

About the Books

Atlas Shrugged (1957) is a mystery story, Ayn Rand once commented, "not about the murder of man's body, but about the murder—and rebirth—of man's spirit." It is the story of a man—the novel's hero—who says that he will stop the motor of the world, and does. The deterioration of the U.S. accelerates as the story progresses. Factories, farms, shops shut down or go bankrupt in ever larger numbers. Riots break out as food supplies become scarce. Is he, then, a destroyer or the greatest of liberators? Why does he have to fight his battle, not against his enemies but against those who need him most, including the woman, Dagny Taggart, a top railroad executive, whom he passionately loves? What is the world's motor—and the motive power of every man?
Peopled by larger-than-life heroes and villains, and charged with awesome questions of good and evil, Atlas Shrugged is a novel of tremendous scope. It presents an astounding panorama of human life—from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy (Francisco d'Anconia)—to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction (Hank Rearden)—to the philosopher who becomes a pirate (Ragnar Danneskjold)—to the composer who gives up his career on the night of his triumph (Richard Halley). Dramatizing Ayn Rand's complete philosophy, Atlas Shrugged is an intellectual revolution told in the form of an action thriller of violent events—and with a ruthlessly brilliant plot and irresistible suspense.
We do not want to spoil the plot by giving away its secret or its deeper meaning, so as a hint only we will quote here one brief exchange from the novel:

"If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater the effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders—what would you tell him to do?"
"I…don't know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?"
"To shrug."

often plays on cable TV and at art-house cinemas, where it is always received enthusiastically.

embraced the movie. Five months after its release, Mussolini's government figured out what everyone else knew, and banned the movie. This is eloquent proof of Ayn Rand's claim that the book is not merely "about Soviet Russia."
After the war, the movie was re-edited under Ayn Rand's supervision. The movie is still played at art-house cinemas, and is now available on videotape.

Anthem (1946), a novelette in the form of a prose poem, depicts a grim world of the future that is totally collectivized. Technologically primitive, it is a world in which candles are the very latest advance. From birth to death, men's lives are directed for them by the State. At Palaces of Mating, the State enacts its eugenics program; once born and schooled, people are assigned jobs they dare not refuse, toiling in the fields until they are consigned to the Home of the Useless.
This is a world in which men live and die for the sake of the State. The State is all, the individual is nothing. It is a world in which the word "I" has vanished from the language, replaced by "We." For the sin of speaking the unspeakable "I," men are put to death.
Equality 7-2521, however, rebels.
Though assigned to the life work of street sweeper by the rulers who resent his brilliant, inquisitive mind, he secretly becomes a scientist. Enduring the threat of torture and imprisonment, he continues in his quest for knowledge and ultimately rediscovers electric light. But when he shares it with the Council of Scholars, he is denounced for the sin of thinking what no other men think. He runs for his life, escaping to the uncharted forest beyond the city's edge. There, with his beloved, he begins a more intense sequence of discoveries, both personal and intellectual, that help him break free from the collectivist State's brutal morality of sacrifice. He learns that man's greatest moral duty is the pursuit of his own happiness. He discovers and speaks the sacred word: I.
Anthem's theme is the meaning and glory of man's ego.

About Objectivism

Ayn Rand held that philosophy was not a luxury for the few, but a life-and-death necessity of everyone's survival. She described Objectivism, the intellectual framework of her novels, as a philosophy for living on earth. Rejecting all forms of supernaturalism and religion, Objectivism holds that Reality, the world of nature, exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man's feelings, wishes, hopes, or fears; in short, "wishing won't make it so." Further, Ayn Rand held that Reason—the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses—is man's only source of knowledge, both of facts and of values. Reason is man's only guide to action, and his basic means of survival. Hence her rejection of all forms of mysticism, such as intuition, instinct, revelation, etc.
On the question of good and evil, Objectivism advocates a scientific code of morality: the morality of rational self-interest, which holds Man's Life as the standard of moral value. The good is that which sustains Man's Life; the evil is that which destroys it. Rationality, therefore, is man's primary virtue. Each man should live by his own mind and for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor others to himself. Man is an end in himself. His own happiness, achieved by his own work and trade, is each man's highest moral purpose.
In politics, as a consequence, Objectivism upholds not the welfare state, but laissez-faire capitalism (the complete separation of state and economics) as the only social system consistent with the requirements of Man's Life. The proper function of government is the original American system: to protect each individual's inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.
Objectivism defines "art" as the re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments. The greatest school in art history, it holds, is Romanticism, whose art represents things not as they are, but as they might be and ought to be.
The fundamentals of Objectivism are set forth in many nonfiction books including: For the New Intellectual; The Virtue of Selfishness; Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal; Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution; Philosophy: Who Needs It; and The Romantic Manifesto. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, written by Ayn Rand's intellectual heir Leonard Peikoff and published in 1991, is the definitive presentation of her entire system of philosophy.

 

ABOUT AYN RAND

Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 2, 1905. At the age of nine, she decided to make fiction-writing her career. In late 1925 she obtained permission to leave the USSR for a visit to relatives in the United States. Arriving in New York in February 1926, she first spent six months with her relatives in Chicago before moving to Los Angeles.
On her second day in Hollywood, the famous director Cecil B. De Mille noticed her standing at the gate of his studio, offered her a ride to the set of his silent movie The King of Kings, and gave her a job, first as an extra and later as a script reader. During the next week at the studio, she met an actor, Frank O'Connor, whom she married in 1929; they were happily married until his death fifty years later.
After struggling for several years at various menial jobs, including one in the wardrobe department at RKO, she sold her first screenplay, "Red Pawn," to Universal Studios in 1932 and then saw her first play, Night of January 16th, produced in Hollywood and (in 1935) on Broadway. In 1936, her first novel, We the Living, was published.
She began writing The Fountainhead in 1935. In the character of Howard Roark, she presented for the first time the Ayn Rand hero, whose depiction was the chief goal of her writing: the ideal man, man as "he could be and ought to be." The Fountainhead was rejected by a dozen publishers but finally accepted by Bobbs-Merrill; it came out in 1943. The novel made publishing history by becoming a best-seller within two years purely through word of mouth; it gained lasting recognition for Ayn Rand as a champion of individualism.
Atlas Shrugged (1957) was her greatest achievement and last work of fiction. In this novel she dramatizes her unique philosophy of Objectivism in an intellectual mystery story that integrates ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, politics, economics, and sex. Although she considered herself primarily a fiction writer, she realized early that in order to create heroic characters, she had to identify the philosophic principles which make such people possible. She proceeded to develop a "philosophy for living on earth." Objectivism has now gained a worldwide audience and is an ever growing presence in American culture. Her novels continue to sell in enormous numbers every year, proving themselves enduring classics of literature.
Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982, at her home in New York City.

Recollections of Ayn Rand
A Conversation with Leonard Peikoff, Ph.D.,—Ayn Rand's longtime associate and intellectual heir

Dr. Peikoff, you met Miss Rand when you were seventeen and were associated with her until her death, thirty-one years later. What were your first impressions of her? What was she like?
The strongest first impression I had of her was her passion for ideas. Ayn Rand was unlike anyone I had ever imagined. Her mind was utterly first-handed: she said what no one else had ever said or probably ever thought, but she said these things so logically—so simply, factually, persuasively—that they seemed to be self-evident. She radiated the kind of intensity that one could imagine changing the course of history. Her brilliantly perceptive eyes looked straight at you and missed nothing: neither did her methodical, painstaking, virtually scientific replies to my questions miss anything. She made me think for the first time that thinking is important. I said to myself after I left her home: "All of life will be different now. If she exists, everything is possible."

In her fiction, Ayn Rand presented larger-than-life heroes—embodiments of her philosophy of rational egoism—that have inspired countless readers over the years. Was Ayn Rand's own life like that of her characters? Did she practice her own ideals?
Yes, always. From the age of nine, when she decided on a career as a writer, everything she did was integrated toward her creative purpose. As with Howard Roark, dedication to thought and thus to her work was the root of Ayn Rand's person.
In every aspect of life, she once told me, a man should have favorites. He should define what he likes or wants most and why, and then proceed to get it. She always did just that—fleeing the Soviet dictatorship for America, tripping her future husband on a movie set to get him to notice her, ransacking ancient record shops to unearth some lost treasure, even decorating her apartment with an abundance of her favorite color, blue-green.

Given her radical views in morality and politics, did she ever soften or compromise her message?
Never. She took on the whole world—liberals, conservatives, communists, religionists, Babbitts and avant-garde alike—but opposition had no power to sway her from her convictions.
I never saw her adapting her personality or viewpoint to please another individual. She was always the same and always herself, whether she was talking with me alone, or attending a cocktail party of celebrities, or being cheered or booed by a hall full of college students, or being interviewed on national television.

Couldn't she have profited by toning things down a little?

She could never be tempted to betray her convictions. A Texas oil man once offered her up to a million dollars to use in spreading her philosophy, if she would only add a religious element to it to make it more popular. She threw his proposal into the wastebasket. "What would I do with his money," she asked me indignantly, "if I have to give up my mind in order to get it?"
Her integrity was the result of her method of thinking and her conviction that ideas really matter. She knew too clearly how she had reached her ideas, why they were true, and what their opposites were doing to mankind.

Who are some writers that Ayn Rand respected and enjoyed reading?

She did not care for most contemporary writers. Her favorites were the nineteenth century Romantic novelists. Above all, she admired Victor Hugo, though she often disagreed with his explicit views. She liked Dostoevsky for his superb mastery of plot structure and characterization, although she had no patience for his religiosity. In popular literature, she read all of Agatha Christie twice, and also liked the early novels of Mickey Spillane.

In addition to writing best-sellers, Ayn Rand originated a distinctive philosophy of reason. If someone wants to get an insight into her intellectual and creative development, what would you suggest?

A reader ought first to read her novels and main nonfiction in order to understand her views and values. Then, to trace her early literary development, a reader could pick up The Early Ayn Rand, a volume I edited after her death. It features a selection of short stories and plays that she wrote while mastering English and the art of fiction-writing. For a glimpse of her lifelong intellectual development, I would recommend the recent book Journals of Ayn Rand, edited by David Harriman.

Ayn Rand's life was punctuated by disappointments with people, frustration, and early poverty. Was she embittered? Did she achieve happiness in her own life?

She did achieve happiness. Whatever her disappointments or frustrations, they went down, as she said about Roark, only to a certain point. Beneath it was her self-esteem, her values, and her conviction that happiness, not pain, is what matters. I remember a spring day in 1957. She and I were walking up Madison Avenue in New York toward the office of Random House, which was in the process of bringing out Atlas Shrugged. She was looking at the city she had always loved most, and now, after decades of rejection, she had seen the top publishers in that city competing for what she knew, triumphantly, was her masterpiece. She turned to me suddenly and said: "Don't ever give up what you want in life. The struggle is worth it." I never forgot that. I can still see the look of quiet radiance on her face.

Related Titles

Fiction in Paperback
Anthem (New York: Signet, 1961).
Atlas Shrugged (New York: Signet, 1959).
The Fountainhead (New York: Signet, 25th anniv. ed., 1968).
Night of January 16th (New York: Plume, 1987).
We the Living (New York: Signet, 1960).
Nonfiction in Paperback
Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (New York: Signet, 1967).
The Early Ayn Rand: A Selection from Her Unpublished Fiction
(New York: Signet, 1986).
For the New Intellectual (New York: Signet, 1963).
Philosophy: Who Needs It (New York: Signet, 1964).
Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution (New York:
Meridian, 1999).
The Romantic Manifesto (New York: Signet, 2nd rev. ed., 1971).
The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1984).
On Ayn Rand and Objectivism
The Ayn Rand Reader, edited by Gary Hull and Leonard Peikoff
(New York: Plume, 1999).
Journals of Ayn Rand, edited by David Harriman (New York:
Dutton, 1997).
Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, by Leonard Peikoff
(New York: Meridian, 1993).

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Atlas Shrugged

  1. What and where is the "utopia of greed"?
     
  2. Why does Dagny Taggart, a woman of ruthless logic who passionately loves life, chase a mysterious stranger's plane in her own plane when she knows it will lead to her virtually certain death?
     
  3. Why do Dagny Taggart and Lillian Rearden—both highly affluent women—fight over a cheap metallic bracelet? Who gets to keep the bracelet, and at what cost? What is Lillian's real motive in trapping her husband Hank in infidelity?
     
  4. Why does Francisco d'Anconia, heir to the greatest fortune in the world and a productive genius with boundless ambition, seek ever more outrageous ways to destroy his own business empire? Why does he turn into a playboy who forsakes the woman he loves and instead seduces prominent women who are of no interest to him?
     
  5. When an entire country tells them that their railroad bridge, constructed from a new ultralight metal, won't stand under the onrush of a speeding train, why are Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden so confident that it will? Were you convinced by the arguments offered against them by their opponents? Whom did you side with? Why?
     
  6. According to Atlas Shrugged, selfishness is both moral and practical. What does Ayn Rand mean by "selfishness"? Compare the actions and character of James Taggart, Hank Rearden, Orren Boyle, and Francisco d'Anconia: Who is selfish and who is not? Can you present arguments for or against Ayn Rand's view of selfishness? Contrast Ayn Rand's approach with that of the ethics of Christianity.
     
  7. What basic motive unites people who brag about their sexual promiscuity and people who demand economic handouts from the government?
     
  8. Explain the meaning and wider significance of the following quote from Atlas Shrugged: "The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality." Explain what ideas underlie the maxim that "money is the root of all good."
     
  9. Capitalism is often defended by appeal to the "public good"; that is, solely because its economic efficiency benefits society. Contrast this with Ayn Rand's defense of capitalism, as dramatized in Atlas Shrugged.

The Fountainhead

  1. When Roark comes uninvited to Dominique's bedroom in his rough, soiled workman's clothes, is the act that he commits rape? Why or why not?
     
  2. Why does Gail Wynand, a self-made media and real-estate millionaire, seek to turn men into hypocrites? Why does he make a socialist defend management and a conservative defend labor?
     
  3. Why does the struggling sculptor Steven Mallory attempt to gun down a famous newspaper columnist who champions the voiceless and the undefended?
     
  4. Why does Peter Keating, a celebrity architect, plead with his unsuccessful and widely condemned friend, Hoard Roark, secretly to design a crucial housing project for him? Roark is an architect of unmatched integrity who scorns Keating—so why does he agree to do it?
     
  5. Howard Roark refuses a major contract when he most needs it, arguing that his action was "the most selfish thing you've ever seen a man do." Why does he call this action selfish?
     
  6. Why does Roark dynamite Cortlandt Homes? How does he defend his action? Is he a moral man, a practical man, both, or neither?
     
  7. Both Howard Roark and Lois Cook are artists with a unique vision who are not accepted by the mainstream of society. What does Ayn Rand mean by "individualism"? Are they both individualists? Why or why not?
     
  8. What does Ayn Rand mean by the terms "first-hander" and "second-hander"? Cite examples of each type from real life.

We the Living

  1. When Kira Argounova, the novel's heroine, meets Leo Kovalensky, a handsome stranger who thinks she is a whore, why does she not correct him?
     
  2. The Communist war hero and much feared secret police agent Andrei Taganov is a pure proletarian, completely devoted to the Party's cause. Why then does he lose respect for the Party—and why does he fall in love with Kira?
     
  3. In a society that outlaws profit, what secret business deal does Leo, an aristocrat, make with Pavel Syerov, an important Communist? Why? Who profits from it?
     
  4. How does the discovery by the secret police of one article of clothing in Leo's room set the course for the resolution of the story?
     
  5. Although Communism's ideal state, the USSR, has collapsed, many Communists are still undeterred: they argue that Communism is good in theory but was misapplied by Stalin in practice. By reference to events in We the Living, what arguments can you present in response to such a position? How would Ayn Rand respond?
     
  6. We the Living shows that under Communism the poor become much poorer. Some would argue that Communism fails the downtrodden because human nature is "not good enough." How would Ayn Rand respond to this? Where does she place the blame for the misery wrought by Communism?

Anthem

  1. In a world that places the good of society above all else, why is a man with a revolutionary invention that would benefit everyone forced to run for his life?
     
  2. Why is the hero willing to risk being burned at the stake in order to discover the meaning of "the unspeakable word"?
     
  3. As fires ravaged the cities of the world at the close of the Unmentionable Times, what crucial values did men lose? What was gained or lost at the Dawn of the Great Rebirth of society?
     
  4. What does Equality 7-2521 discover in the Uncharted Forest that removes his original dread of the place?
     
  5. Compare the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden with the story of Equality 7-2521. For what "sins" were each condemned? In what ways are Equality 7-2521 and Adam similar? How do they differ?
     
  6. Anthem is set in a totalitarian future. But unlike the societies depicted in Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World, Anthem presents a future in which candles and glazed windows are the latest advances. What point about technology was Ayn Rand making by portraying such a primitive future, and how do the events of the story establish that point?
     
  7. For each of the following quotations, explain its role in the story and its wider significance:

    a) "It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others think."

    b) "I wished to know the meaning of things. I am the meaning."

    c) "I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them."

Objectivism

  1. What is meant by "selfishness," according to Objectivism? What is "sacrifice," and is it moral? How is Objectivism's approach to good and evil justified?
     
  2. Reason, says Ayn Rand, is man's only means of knowledge. What is her definition of "reason"? Why does she reject people who claim that they can reach the truth by means of intuition, revelation, instinct, or extrasensory perception?
     
  3. Happiness, holds Ayn Rand, is the normal condition of man. What does she mean by "happiness"? What is required to be happy? Compare Roark and Keating from The Fountainhead: Which one was happy? Why?
     
  4. Emotions, according to Objectivism, are consequences of the ideas and values one holds. Use Objectivism's theory of emotions to explain the romantic-sexual feelings of James Taggart, of Francisco d'Anconia, and then of yourself.
     
  5. Individual rights for Objectivism—as for the Founding Fathers—are the basic principles that should guide government. How does Ayn Rand define a "right"? Why does she reject the idea of a right to healthcare? Why does she reject both socialism and anarchy?
     
  6. Capitalism, argues Objectivism, is the only moral social system. Explain this by reference to Objectivism's standard of right and wrong. Can you think of arguments against Ayn Rand's reasoning on this issue? How do you think she might reply to your arguments?
     
  7. Why does Ayn Rand think that art is crucial? What is her favorite school of art? Why?
Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

ATLAS SHRUGGED
by Ayn Rand

 

INTRODUCTION

Ayn Rand is one of America's favorite authors. In a recent Library of Congress/Book of the Month Club survey, American readers ranked Atlas Shrugged—her masterwork—as second only to the Bible in its influence on their lives. For decades, at scores of college campuses around the country, students have formed clubs to discuss the works of Ayn Rand. In 1998, the Oscar-nominated Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, a documentary film about her life, played to sold-out venues throughout America and Canada. In recognition of her enduring popularity, the United States Postal Service in 1999 issued an Ayn Rand stamp.

About the Books

Atlas Shrugged (1957) is a mystery story, Ayn Rand once commented, "not about the murder of man's body, but about the murder—and rebirth—of man's spirit." It is the story of a man—the novel's hero—who says that he will stop the motor of the world, and does. The deterioration of the U.S. accelerates as the story progresses. Factories, farms, shops shut down or go bankrupt in ever larger numbers. Riots break out as food supplies become scarce. Is he, then, a destroyer or the greatest of liberators? Why does he have to fight his battle, not against his enemies but against those who need him most, including the woman, Dagny Taggart, a top railroad executive, whom he passionately loves? What is the world's motor—and the motive power of every man?

About Objectivism

 

ABOUT AYN RAND

Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 2, 1905. At the age of nine, she decided to make fiction-writing her career. In late 1925 she obtained permission to leave the USSR for a visit to relatives in the United States. Arriving in New York in February 1926, she first spent six months with her relatives in Chicago before moving to Los Angeles.

Recollections of Ayn Rand
A Conversation with Leonard Peikoff, Ph.D.,—Ayn Rand's longtime associate and intellectual heir

Related Titles

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Atlas Shrugged

  1. What and where is the "utopia of greed"?
     
  2. Why does Dagny Taggart, a woman of ruthless logic who passionately loves life, chase a mysterious stranger's plane in her own plane when she knows it will lead to her virtually certain death?
     
  3. Why do Dagny Taggart and Lillian Rearden—both highly affluent women—fight over a cheap metallic bracelet? Who gets to keep the bracelet, and at what cost? What is Lillian's real motive in trapping her husband Hank in infidelity?
     
  4. Why does Francisco d'Anconia, heir to the greatest fortune in the world and a productive genius with boundless ambition, seek ever more outrageous ways to destroy his own business empire? Why does he turn into a playboy who forsakes the woman he loves and instead seduces prominent women who are of no interest to him?
     
  5. When an entire country tells them that their railroad bridge, constructed from a new ultralight metal, won't stand under the onrush of a speeding train, why are Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden so confident that it will? Were you convinced by the arguments offered against them by their opponents? Whom did you side with? Why?
     
  6. According to Atlas Shrugged, selfishness is both moral and practical. What does Ayn Rand mean by "selfishness"? Compare the actions and character of James Taggart, Hank Rearden, Orren Boyle, and Francisco d'Anconia: Who is selfish and who is not? Can you present arguments for or against Ayn Rand's view of selfishness? Contrast Ayn Rand's approach with that of the ethics of Christianity.
     
  7. What basic motive unites people who brag about their sexual promiscuity and people who demand economic handouts from the government?
     
  8. Explain the meaning and wider significance of the following quote from Atlas Shrugged: "The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality." Explain what ideas underlie the maxim that "money is the root of all good."
     
  9. Capitalism is often defended by appeal to the "public good"; that is, solely because its economic efficiency benefits society. Contrast this with Ayn Rand's defense of capitalism, as dramatized in Atlas Shrugged.

The Fountainhead

  1. When Roark comes uninvited to Dominique's bedroom in his rough, soiled workman's clothes, is the act that he commits rape? Why or why not?
     
  2. Why does Gail Wynand, a self-made media and real-estate millionaire, seek to turn men into hypocrites? Why does he make a socialist defend management and a conservative defend labor?
     
  3. Why does the struggling sculptor Steven Mallory attempt to gun down a famous newspaper columnist who champions the voiceless and the undefended?
     
  4. Why does Peter Keating, a celebrity architect, plead with his unsuccessful and widely condemned friend, Hoard Roark, secretly to design a crucial housing project for him? Roark is an architect of unmatched integrity who scorns Keating—so why does he agree to do it?
     
  5. Howard Roark refuses a major contract when he most needs it, arguing that his action was "the most selfish thing you've ever seen a man do." Why does he call this action selfish?
     
  6. Why does Roark dynamite Cortlandt Homes? How does he defend his action? Is he a moral man, a practical man, both, or neither?
     
  7. Both Howard Roark and Lois Cook are artists with a unique vision who are not accepted by the mainstream of society. What does Ayn Rand mean by "individualism"? Are they both individualists? Why or why not?
     
  8. What does Ayn Rand mean by the terms "first-hander" and "second-hander"? Cite examples of each type from real life.

We the Living

  1. When Kira Argounova, the novel's heroine, meets Leo Kovalensky, a handsome stranger who thinks she is a whore, why does she not correct him?
     
  2. The Communist war hero and much feared secret police agent Andrei Taganov is a pure proletarian, completely devoted to the Party's cause. Why then does he lose respect for the Party—and why does he fall in love with Kira?
     
  3. In a society that outlaws profit, what secret business deal does Leo, an aristocrat, make with Pavel Syerov, an important Communist? Why? Who profits from it?
     
  4. How does the discovery by the secret police of one article of clothing in Leo's room set the course for the resolution of the story?
     
  5. Although Communism's ideal state, the USSR, has collapsed, many Communists are still undeterred: they argue that Communism is good in theory but was misapplied by Stalin in practice. By reference to events in We the Living, what arguments can you present in response to such a position? How would Ayn Rand respond?
     
  6. We the Living shows that under Communism the poor become much poorer. Some would argue that Communism fails the downtrodden because human nature is "not good enough." How would Ayn Rand respond to this? Where does she place the blame for the misery wrought by Communism?

Anthem

  1. In a world that places the good of society above all else, why is a man with a revolutionary invention that would benefit everyone forced to run for his life?
     
  2. Why is the hero willing to risk being burned at the stake in order to discover the meaning of "the unspeakable word"?
     
  3. As fires ravaged the cities of the world at the close of the Unmentionable Times, what crucial values did men lose? What was gained or lost at the Dawn of the Great Rebirth of society?
     
  4. What does Equality 7-2521 discover in the Uncharted Forest that removes his original dread of the place?
     
  5. Compare the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden with the story of Equality 7-2521. For what "sins" were each condemned? In what ways are Equality 7-2521 and Adam similar? How do they differ?
     
  6. Anthem is set in a totalitarian future. But unlike the societies depicted in Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World, Anthem presents a future in which candles and glazed windows are the latest advances. What point about technology was Ayn Rand making by portraying such a primitive future, and how do the events of the story establish that point?
     
  7. For each of the following quotations, explain its role in the story and its wider significance:

    a) "It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others think."

    b) "I wished to know the meaning of things. I am the meaning."

    c) "I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them."

Objectivism

  1. What is meant by "selfishness," according to Objectivism? What is "sacrifice," and is it moral? How is Objectivism's approach to good and evil justified?
     
  2. Reason, says Ayn Rand, is man's only means of knowledge. What is her definition of "reason"? Why does she reject people who claim that they can reach the truth by means of intuition, revelation, instinct, or extrasensory perception?
     
  3. Happiness, holds Ayn Rand, is the normal condition of man. What does she mean by "happiness"? What is required to be happy? Compare Roark and Keating from The Fountainhead: Which one was happy? Why?
     
  4. Emotions, according to Objectivism, are consequences of the ideas and values one holds. Use Objectivism's theory of emotions to explain the romantic-sexual feelings of James Taggart, of Francisco d'Anconia, and then of yourself.
     
  5. Individual rights for Objectivism—as for the Founding Fathers—are the basic principles that should guide government. How does Ayn Rand define a "right"? Why does she reject the idea of a right to healthcare? Why does she reject both socialism and anarchy?
     
  6. Capitalism, argues Objectivism, is the only moral social system. Explain this by reference to Objectivism's standard of right and wrong. Can you think of arguments against Ayn Rand's reasoning on this issue? How do you think she might reply to your arguments?
     
  7. Why does Ayn Rand think that art is crucial? What is her favorite school of art? Why?

 

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

    You know it is funny, I consider myself conservative and rather

    You know it is funny, I consider myself conservative and rather right but I greatly disliked this book and indeed remember it as extreme "left" to the point of socialist/fascist politically.

    All of Ayn Rand's books that I 'had' to read for one reason or another I hated. I find Rand's philosophy disgustingly LEFT. It is like the crazies that think NAZIs were right wing when they were the absolute of left politics, technically socialism. The only things farther left was Marxism, Stalinism, Leninism and Maoism.

    Please don't equate conservatives with any of that ilk!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2005

    Influential Reading

    Atlas Shrugged was ranted as one of the most influential books by many. I can see why. It is lengthy and in need of editing. And, I agree she creates an extreme situation that portrays Socialism as the enemy and Capitalism as the saint. She herself would agree that there is a grey area in the real world. However, she used this fictional railroad to make very valid and convincing points about systems of government. This book personally broadened my perspective and changed many of my views.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2005

    The Best Book Ever Written

    I have always been an Objectivist, before I knew of the classification. For me, this book simply reinforced my own beliefs. It did so in a most beautiful, thoughtful, and entertaining way. It is essential reading for all young minds; for them, I hope it will dismantle the programming that they endure at the hands of the weak collectivists in our world.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2004

    FANTASTIC Work of Art

    I cannot begin to describe how great this novel is. It has had a major impact on my life!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2003

    I'll never see people, the government, the world the same again ... or myself

    Sorry if this sounds like a tutorial. Buy the 35th Anniversary Edition hardcover TO KEEP. Skip the intro, then go back to it after you've finished. Although it'll be hard not to continue to the end, re-read Chapter VII before you continue ... twice! Don't allow your time to be 'looted' by others. Allow yourself the 1168 minutes (in your own 'gulch') it'll take to finish ... it's worth it, AND SO ARE YOU.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2002

    ~ AYNS MASTERPIECE MURAL ~

    This epic tale will capture your imagination through character and world industry. A classic GOOD vs. EVIL in an Art Deco era of social and political transition.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2002

    Ayn Rand Speaks Out Against Incompetence

    Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, is an excellent inspirational novel that takes you through Dagny Taggart¿s struggle against the failing world. This is a novel I would strongly suggest reading. It made me want to accomplish every objective that I undertake. Mrs. Taggart discovers an underground operation to drain the brains of the world by an unknown destroyer. She takes this offence personally when her railroad corporation, Taggart Transcontinental, is threatened. As hard as Mrs. Taggart is, she can¿t save her business being the only productive member resisting the downfall of her railroad. Dagny lives in a world that promotes those who do not produce anything useful and punish those who do. All people and businesses that are capable are being ruined by society¿s dependence on ¿slaves¿ that will do their work. People of ability and competence have disappeared. Only greedy loafers that bring down the remaining ¿Atlases¿ are left. Taggart Transcontinental is doomed without Dagny. She and her lover, Hank Rearden, are the last ones who can save humankind from its corrupted morals and goals. Will they be able to keep the looters from tearing down civilization or will they become the last victim of the ¿unknown destroyer?¿ Oh well, who is John Galt?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2001

    ...Battle of the Minds...

    ...I love this booke verytime i read it...even more..the fundamental on which it is based- the entire truth of 'men of minds' wanting to shrug the second handers and men who think minds have to be together is bought out brilliantly by my favourite author - Ms Rand.most people tend to disagree with what she writes, but I know that since i was sixteen and now afer 5 years she still is my idol. It's true that we can never find John Galt but he does exist and that conviction which is bought out in the book is amazing...love it to the core!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2000

    One of my favorites!

    Sure, it's not realistic. It's not MEANT to be realistic. It's one of the best peices of political/philosophical fiction I have ever read. It is a long book, but you should DEFINITLY read it, because if you die without reading this book you will be sorry. (You only have one life- do it NOW!)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2000

    I loved this book

    Atlas Shrugged was recomended to me by my mother and i had already read Fountianhead and said there is no way this is better then Fountianhead but after reading Atlas Shruggerd i would like to take that comment back. I think that this book is Rand at her best. It is the amazing story of a railroad tycoon who tries to save the world by making it ideal and her aristocratic friends who keep disappearing. Dadny Taraget beutiful determianed and full of energy tries despretly to this world from losing its transcontinantal railroad. Henry Readen the man who defies socitey by tries to sell a new type of metal. Atlas Shrugged is the incredable story of thier intertwined lives. It is odd how the main male charecters in both Fountianhead and Atals Shrugged both have the same initals H.R. (Howard Roak and Henry Readen) and simalar if not the same personalites. In this book Rand as always does an exelent job of devolping the charecters. What a pity they don't exist. This is book is a definate MUST READ if you have not

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2000

    who is jhon galt?

    answer that question and you'll understand something very important about our country and our way of life. Good book for college students especially those majoring in philosophy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 1999

    Possibly the most misunderstood book ever.

    Atlas Shrugged, which projects Objectivism in every day life.Is probably along with The Fountainhead, The first book advocators and oposers to objectivism read. Commonly and unfortunetly asociated with Nietzsche philosophy Objectivism is in actuallality oposesed to Nietzshe philosophy, because in Nietzshe philosophy it is considered moral to sacrafice others for your own needs. Which any one who reads Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead will with out a dought discover Objectivism is strongly oposed to. Atlas Shrugged is a good book for any one. Ayn Rands uniques and skillful way of writting will keep your interest through out the book pushing you to read on and on, and in most cases will entice you to read other books written by her.

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